Could a Robot Do Your Job?

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In looking at the future of employment, I've done my best to sum up the benefits of telecommuting, the rise of health care as perhaps the dominant engine of the economy, the emergence of a freelance nation, and the employment crisis of rising medical costs. But I've neglected one important thing: robots.

Fortunately, Fabius Maximus at RBE does some heavy lifting on the subject and comes to some heavy conclusions. In short: automation is more dangerous than we think.

Our world automation increases productivity -- boosting business profits (now at record levels despite the recession) and reduces employment. Especially as the automation wave moves from manufacturing into the far larger pool of service employment.
  • Fire bank tellers; install ATMs.
  • Fire workers in toll booths and parking lots; install automated payment systems (e.g., FasTrak).
  • Fire cashiers; install automated check-out systems (e.g., gas stations and Home Depot).
  • Fire teachers for simple continuing education course; install online learning systems
It's happening now, as the recession has sparked businesses to rationalize their business practices to fully utilize new technology.

20100308-fedsf-productivity.jpg?w=428&h=340


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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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